We meet a lot taxi and shuttle drivers and boat captains on our travels through Mexico and Central America. Sometimes a driver has already been to the U.S. Or, sometimes the man is planning to go, or is planning to go back. These drivers are almost always men.
Juan shared some of his story while he drove me one day. He said his mother was in New York State and she sent money back home. He told me he would like to see her in New York one day. He didn’t say when or how we would get there. He was evasive on questions about her legal status in the U.S. Juan was a small-sized man, as if he had not had enough to eat growing up.
We met Jorges in what could be called the-middle-of-nowhere. His English was good enough for us to suspect he’d spent some time in the U.S. Turns out he had lived in New Jersey for a few years and worked in a pizzeria. He liked the States and he liked the work. He loved the money. He didn’t answer direct questions about why he left, how he left, or when he left. But he did say he was planning to return in a few months from the time we met him. He would not go into the details of his plan with us strangers. His shirt had holes on the collar, as if he had worn the same shirt for many months, at least.
Jose’s English also was a giveaway that he’d spent time in the U.S. Jose spent a few years in Minnesota working on some kind of farm. Jose didn’t want to share too much of his story with us. I didn’t get details on when he left, how he left, or why he left. After all, we were strangers in his vehicle. Jose had rosary beads wound around his rear view mirror.
That’s just a sample of the many men I’ve met who would love to be in the U.S. All of them say they want to earn more money to make better lives for their families.
Julio was the only driver I have met so far who had already been to the U.S. but did not want to go back. He lived there for seven years. He said was lucky – he had a good job in the medical supply business while he lived outside New York City. But his marriage fell apart and he decided he missed home, and he wanted to return to his home country. Julio was proud to know a back way around a traffic jam.
Driving taxis and tourist shuttles are good jobs. Many drivers are concerned about Uber, which is growing in places like Mexico City, where taxi drivers hold protests, to Guatemala City, where Uber started just six months ago.
When we leave drivers’ cars or vans or trucks, we never see them again. They continue on to pick up more fares, more passengers. There’s no way to know which of those drivers or which of their passengers might travel further north, and risk it all for the chance at a better life down the road.
This series features people I have met on my travels who want to get to the U.S., or have been deported from the U.S. Names have been changed. They would only share their stories with me under the condition of anonymity. I do not support illegal activity in any way – I simply am sharing migrants’ stories.
Other stories in the migrant series:
- A migrant with a dented head, a busted heart, and lost hope
- A woman stuck in no man’s land south of the border
- A former dairy worker deported to Mexico